My wife and I want children, and in May, we will be welcoming our baby girl into this non-womblike world. To most people, the desire to have kids requires no explanation. After all, our families, friends, acquaintances, and co-workers all seemed to assume a baby was forthcoming within 9 months of our wedding day. It’s a tradition passed down by, well, every single ancestor of mine that has ever existed. As Humanists, however, my wife and I don’t really consider “tradition” to be best reason to do anything, let alone go through the inevitable tough times that parenthood tends to bring about. So why do I think this is a good idea? Certainly, there has to be a logical explanation. As mentioned, I AM a Humanist after all.
First, let’s consider some downsides:
1. According to every other parent out there, my wife and I are never going to sleep again. This is unfortunate, since I really do like sleeping.
2. Kids are super expensive. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost to raise one child in the United States is around $13,400 per year.
3. As we’re currently learning, pregnancy is awful, and we hear childbirth is EVEN WORSE.
4. We don’t really foresee the next 100 years to be very easy for humankind, let alone for our children.
5. Speaking of which, the average American has a carbon footprint of 20 tons per year. Granted, we will try to dissuade our child from ever being an “average American”, but she’ll still be contributing to environmental degradation and climate change.
6. Raising kids is extremely stressful in general. Just thinking of shrieking babies, naughty toddlers, and obnoxious teenagers makes me cringe.
7. I have no idea how I am going to manage it.
Okay, so, I can see why people decide not to have kids, but regardless of the cons, I still want a family of my own. Here’s why:
I want to make the world a better place
My child will be raised to be a rational, thoughtful, compassionate, and happy citizen of our planet… At least that’s the plan. Life certainly doesn’t always go as planned, but if my wife and I make a thoughtful, well-researched, and disciplined effort, chances are we’ll do okay. In fact, there is some research to support this optimism. According to sociologist Phil Zuckerman, “Studies have found that secular teenagers are far less likely to care what the “cool kids” think, or express a need to fit in with them, than their religious peers. When these teens mature into “godless” adults, they exhibit less racism than their religious counterparts, according to a 2010 Duke University study. Many psychological studies show that secular grownups tend to be less vengeful, less nationalistic, less militaristic, less authoritarian and more tolerant, on average, than religious adults.” Great! That’s what we’re going for. Hopefully, we will be able to somewhat offset the myriad of self-centered, willfully ignorant, wishful thinking, intolerant, and ultimately unhelpful humans who seem to plague our planet.
I love my family, I love my friends, and I am head over heels in love with my wife. Having relationships paired with love is great, and I’ve heard that the love of one’s child can be especially deep and intense. My child will be half me, and half the love of my life. I will raise her from a squirming little dirty diaper machine to a fully-fledged tax paying adult. The bond we will experience will be beyond anything I have ever experienced and could ever experience with any other human. To me, I could not truly live life to the fullest if I never felt the love for my own offspring. Granted, the degree to which this will improve my wellbeing is uncertain. Research on this topic tends to be rather mixed. However, at least one study showed that “Fathers in particular expressed greater levels of happiness, positive emotion and meaning in life than their childless peers.” So there’s hope for me at least!
Okay, fine, tradition. Are you happy now?
I think it is quite profound that I am about to embark on a journey experienced by all of my ancestors. It’s as if I am tapping into my humanity, and to my ultimate genetic purpose. I (usually) enjoy the connections that I make with other parents or parents-to be who understand what I’m going through, and about what is yet to come. My wife and I have several friends, coworkers, and family members who either recently had a child or is about to have one. My social network seems to be having this new experience right along with me, and I find that rather exciting and comforting. If that isn’t enough, I love how excited our family members are getting about the new baby. It is great to see their enthusiasm for the person who will be the center of our world. Sometimes following tradition and the status quo has its benefits.
So that’s it. I’m sure there are more reasons, but those are my big 3. In the end, it’s still quite a gamble. Who knows if my expectations will be realized? Only time will tell.